Sister Cecilia Landis’ Simply Heavenly Pork Chops
I am the chief cook and bottle washer,” says the Sister of Christian Charity. “I do all that has to do at with the house.”
A native of Reading, Pennsylvania, Sister Marie Cecilia Landis of the Assumption College for Sisters leads a busy life, describing herself as the “chief cook and bottle washer” for the sisters. But she is definitely a happy person, apparently fulfilling a life dream.
Raised in a Catholic household, she noted that her mother was devout, and her father converted to the faith when she took him to Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Mount Penn, Reading. “Not only did he become a convert,” she said, “but he said he would still have been a Catholic even if they had not married.”
In grade school at St. Catherine of Siena, she was part of a group of students who took down laundry for the Sisters at St. Catherine’s Convent and would then clean the convent, the chapel, the dining room and the parlor in the afternoon. In the summer before her high school, the principal came into the school office while the girls were checking envelopes in books, and said that the Sisters in the parish had lost their cook.
“My friend and I said, ‘We will cook for you,’” she said. “Yes, we can cook, and the Sister said ‘You are hired at $5 a day. And then it dawned on us — she was not kidding. The first week, we struggled. The second week we got it down. Then months into it, my friend left, and I got the job. I love cooking.”
Fortunately for Sister, both her parents cooked. “My mom was a simple cook but prepared delicious Pennsylvania Dutch food that was very homey,” she said. “And my grandmother cooked, too, and I would watch them. My dad would occasionally cook, making breakfast and a big meal on Sunday, doing the meat. I picked up hints and did my own experimenting.”
When doing the cooking in high school, she would find recipes at night, and she even cooked one time for the bishop. And during her school years, she would watch how the Sisters led their life. “In the 11th grade I wrote to colleges,” she said. “I had been discerning and praying and I knew I would be a sister. The Sisters of Christian Charity (who run the Assumption College for Sisters) were so appealing, and I visited them, so I learned their lifestyle … and only years later did I realize, we have a deep love and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament …. all those years in high school fostered that spirit.”
Now, years later, Sister says that she has cooked for years in her community and the motherhouse. “In the college is an international community,” she said. “I make rice three different ways plus my way. Depending on what else we are eating, we are having it with rice somewhere. We always have African and Vietnamese rice.”
“They also love my pork chops,” she said. “That is one of my specialties. And the other they like is the 16-beans ham soup that I use as the base. I change the recipe and I have added lots of parsley, more carrots and a big white onion. The beans soak overnight, and I cook them in ham broth. … My secret ingredients are parsley and some garlic. … We use no processed foods here.”
She happily reported that the students from the motherhouse had struggled with the meals before, but with fresh fruits and vegetables, they have no problems with eating. Although Sister’s main job is the Coordinator of Residential Students, she did say, “I am the chief cook and bottle washer. I do all that has to do at with the house.”
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Recipe: Simply Heavenly Pork Chops
These are Sister Cecilia’s pork chops that everyone loves! (No fancy buying. Just use what you have.)
- Pork Chops — You can use any cut of pork chops in this recipe
- Large Sweet White Onions — Or use whatever is your favorite onion to cook with
- Salt and Pepper
- Garlic — Powder/chopped fresh/minced … whatever you have and as much as you like
- Parsley — Chopped fresh/dry/whatever you have and as much as you like
- Cold water — amount as needed
- Pan pork chops on a foil covered baking sheet.
- Salt and pepper all chops on top side. Either broil (on high) or bake (at 400 degrees) until browned on top side; take out, turn over and salt and pepper on second side.
- Brown off that side under broiler or on bake (same as above). Important: Save the pork chop drippings from the foil paper and put in saucepan. Set aside.
- Place pork chops in a baking dish, staggering them.
- Clean and slice onion(s) and place one slice of onion on each pork chop.
- Take the saucepan with the pork chop drippings and add enough water to make about 1or 2 cups of liquid, (depending on how many pork chops you have … you want there to be at least an inch to an inch and a half of liquid on the bottom of the pan
- Put the garlic in the drippings and bring to a rolling boil.
- Pour the sauce drippings over the pork chops and sprinkle the parsley over the entire thing.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil, making sure it is well sealed all the way around the pan.
- Put in the oven, on 325 degrees for 1 hour
- Enjoy the simple heavenly taste!